BHAC Remands Application to Subcommittee

The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission remanded an application from The Vilna Shul at 18 Phillips St., which has proposed modifying and restoring its existing front plaza,  to a newly created subcommittee at the commission’s monthly public hearing held virtually on Thursday, May 18.

The commission had previously heard an advisory review on this project at last month’s virtual public-hearing on April 20, and the applicant subsequently modified and refined their plans in response to feedback received then from Commissioners Maurice Finegold and Ralph Jackson.

The Vilna Shul at 18 Phillips St.

The commission voted unanimously to remand the matter to a subcommittee comprising Commission Chair Mark Kiefer, along with Commissioners Finegold and Jackson.

Chair Kiefer said the subcommittee would schedule a public hearing “as soon as it can be scheduled.”

On an application for 15R Charles St. – the former location of Rainbows Pottery Studio –  the commission unanimously approved an application for a new blade sign and new banner sign for an incoming business, Barnaby’s Toy & Art Shack, a toy store and art studio for children that already operates another location on Nantucket.

The double-sided blade sign, measuring 30-by-20 inches, would use an existing bracket, said the applicant, while the new wall belt sign, measuring 18-by-9 inches, would be stud mounted and have no visible fasteners.

The commission unanimously denied without prejudice an application for a new blade sign at 125 Charles St., the former home of  Bostan, for a recently opened business, Vico Style, a vintage women’s clothing boutique, and asked the applicant to return with a revised design.

(Per district guidelines, only one blade sign is allowed per building, and KM Hudson already has a blade sign at this address, Chair Kiefer noted.)

The proprietor of the new business and applicant, Cecilia Hermawan, said she will instead explore installing only a wall board sign directly above the windows of the basement-level storefront in place of the temporary signage there now (which has been permitted on a temporary basis, said BHAC staff, Nicholas Armata).

In another matter, the commission unanimously voted to ratify unapproved window well grates at 47 West Cedar St., and to approve the application to ratify the work as submitted.

The applicant told the commissioners that he had removed the wooden planks that previously covered the grates, and that he had also repainted the window trim a different color.

The commission also reviewed two violations for unapproved roofdeck alterations at 9 Temple St., units #2 and #3, respectively,

Frank McGuire, the architect representing only unit #2 (the lower unit), said that the contractor had indicated that he had received a permit from the city for the job, but this statement was determined to be false after construction had commenced.

The job, which is now complete, entailed replacing the roofdeck in kind; and removing and replacing the existing iron railing, said McGuire, who added that only a portion of the roofdeck for unit #2 is visible from Cambridge Street whereas the entire roofeck for unit #3 is visible from the street.

The commission voted unanimously to dismiss the violation for the roofdeck for unit #2, and to approve the application as submitted.

Anthony McDermott, the property manager, said that the two roofdecks had to be replaced due to water damage they both sustained. Both roofdecks had been approved by the commission years ago, he added.

For the unit #3 roofdeck (the upper deck), the applicant intends to replace the wooden railing with a thin metal railing that would resemble the railing on the roofdeck below it (for unit #2), said McDermott.

The commission unanimously dismissed the violation for the unit #3 roofdeck and approved the application as submitted to ratify the work, with the proviso that the treatment of the space between the lattice and the deck be delegated to staff (Armata), who will work in consultation with the applicant to resolve the issue.

Likewise, the commission voted unanimously to ratify the unapproved removal of architectural element above first floor entry at 84 West Cedar St. This determination came with a proviso that the proposed lintel stop short of the party walls on either side of the building, and that the final design drawings be submitted to staff (Armata).

On an application for 40 Joy St., the commission voted 7-1 (with Commissioner Ed Fleck casting the single dissenting vote) to approve the proposed installation of metal security grates on the first-floor windows of a residential unit facing the street. This determination came with the provisos that the grills  be installed to the mortar joints in the brick façade, rather than through the brick or in the wood frame, and that shop drawings be submitted to staff.

On an application for 107 Chestnut St., the commission voted to approve the proposed installation of a privacy fence with a trellis.

The fence is now proposed as 6 feet high, compared with a fence standing 7 feet, 3½ inches tall, which was unanimously approved by the commission at its Dec. 15 public hearing. (After living with a mockup of the fence with the originally approved height, the applicant is now opting for a shorter fence.)

The same applicant has also ratified a violation for the unapproved floodlight at the aforementioned Chestnut Street address by installing it inside a copper box. The commission subsequently voted unanimously to dismiss the violation, and to ratify the copper-box installation for the floodlight.

The commission also reviewed a pair of applications  for 5 and 7 Louisburg Square to truncate the existing fire escape at the first address, and to remove the existing fire escape in its entirety at the second address.

(Both buildings are being converted to single-family homes, so the  existing fires escapes can now be removed in accordance with the city’s fire codes, according to the applicant, who added that fire suppressions systems will be installed at both addresses.)

The commission approved both applications as submitted.

In another matter, the commission unanimously approved as submitted an application for 83 Myrtle St., which included the exterior painting of all woodwork oriel and window frames using Benjamin Moore White Dove paint, as well as painting the front  door, shutters, and window sash using Benjamin Moore Black paint. This determination came with a proviso that prior to any painting, the applicant install several samples displaying the proposed paint colors, along with alternative colors, for commissioners to view and consider.

On an application for 53 Beacon St., the commission unanimously approved as submitted the proposed work, which includes repainting the front door a shade of green using the Benjamin Moore Historic Paint Collection.

During the staff updates, Armata clarified a “popular misconception in the public realm” that the BHAC has a “paint collection” of pre-approved colors for the Beacon Hill Historic District.

“We don’t have a pre-approved selection of paints or a paint collection we allow people to use,” said Armata, adding that people often confuse this with Historic New England’s ‘Historic Colors of America’ paint collection.

Instead, the BHAC prefers to review paint colors on a case-by-case basis, said Armata.

Armata also bid farewell to Commissioner Wen Wen (who was on hand for most of the meeting but had left by this point) and thanked her for her service to the commission. (Wen was appointed to the commission on Dec. 11, 2019.) Wen’s departure will leave a vacancy on the commission for a Boston Society of Architecture alternate, said Armata.

Two violations scheduled for the hearing – one to ratify the installation of an unapproved EV (Electric Vehicle) charging box at 6 Louisburg Square, the other to ratify the installation of an unapproved Ring doorbell system at 3 Charles River Square – were both rescheduled for the commission’s June hearing.

Two additional applications were withdrawn by their respective applicants – one to install a placard at 1 Chestnut St. acknowledging the property as the former residence of both Coretta Scott King and Henry Kissinger; and the other for 34.5 Beacon St. to install three bollards on Joy Street.

Besides Chair Kiefer and Commissioners Finegold, Fleck, Jackson, and Wen, Commissioners Commissioner Curtis Kemeny, Alice Richmond, and Annette Given were also on hand for the hearing.

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